He looked at her, a little startled.
“It seems strange to hear you say that,” he remarked.
“Strange only because you will think of me as a dilettante,” she replied swiftly. “I have some sort of a brain. I have thought of these matters, talked of them with my uncle, with many others whom even you would admit to be clever men. I, too, see that charity and charitable impulses have perhaps been the greatest drawback of the day to a scientific betterment of the people. I, too, want to see the thing done by laws and not by impulses.”
“You and how many more,” he sighed, “and, alas! this is an age of majorities. People talk a good deal. I wonder how many of your hateful middle class would give up a tithe of their luxuries to add to the welfare of the others. There isn’t a person breathing with so little real feeling for the slaves of the world, as your middle-class manufacturer, your tradesman. That is why, in the days to come, he will be the person who is going to suffer most.”
Maraton was appealed to from across the table with reference to some of the art treasures which were reputed to have found their way from Italy to New York. He gave at once the information required, speaking fluently and with the appreciative air of a connoisseur, of many of the pictures which were under discussion. Soon afterwards, Lady Grenside rose and the men drew up their chairs. The evening papers had arrived and there was a general air of seriousness. Mr. Foley sent one to Maraton, who glanced at the opening page upon which his name was displayed in large type:
What the strike may mean.
Home secretary leaves post Manchester.
Maraton only glanced at the paper and put it on one side. There was a little constraint. One or two who had not known of his identity were glancing curiously in his direction. Mr. Foley smiled at him pleasantly.
“You may drink your port without fear, Mr. Maraton,” he said. “We live in civilised ages. A thousand years ago, you would certainly have had some cause for suspicion!”
Maraton raised his glass to his lips and sipped the wine critically.
“I am afraid,” he remarked, with a gleam in his eyes, “that there are a good many of you who may be wishing that they could set back time a thousand years!”
Mr. Foley shook his head.
“No,” he decided, “to-day’s principles are the best. We argue away what is wrong in the minds of our enemies, and we take unto ourselves what they bring us of good. If you would rather, Mr. Maraton, we will not talk politics at all. On the other hand, the news to-night is serious. Armley here is wondering what the actual results will be if Sheffield, Leeds, and Manchester stand together, and the railway strike comes at the same time.”